The Status-quo is the Enemy

A critical feature was the centralization of power and control by a managerial class. That has remained essentially unchanged to this day even as the late 20th Century transformed into a knowledge economy. That is one powerful institution that needs to be de-constructed fast.

Command & control habit out of synch

As industrial society moved up the value chain into knowledge work, a highly educated workforce needed different ways of engagement. They became more mobile, less loyal and respectful of authority.

The hitherto unquestioned power of management to exploit workers had to be modified with softer approaches and incentives. That spawned a human-relations wave to lull workers into believing their interests align with their employers.

Annual dinners, incentive holidays and photographs of model workers in company magazines became standard. That makes not one iota of difference to a workforce which holds management in contempt for incompetence and duplicity. Managements which earn the respect of their staff need not waste money and energy on sops.

HR Voodoo

Information remained centralized at the top. Bonus and other rewards were made into systems of ‘performance measurement’ which sounded scientific but in reality were sugar-coated versions of the old ways of favouritism and arbitrary largesse. HR departments venerated these pseudo-scientific rituals and hoarded the logs like holy books, adding to the collective delusion.

Today’s workers are skeptical of the pious invocations of their bosses. If directives do not make sense, they say so. An entirely new power balancing is underway where authority accrues to knowledge and experience, not seniority or hierarchy status.

Robotization reduces factory labour. Lay-offs rule

The latter half of the 20th Century saw massive lay-offs of factory labour driven by robotization of manufacturing and the globalization of production -- factories could be relocated to exploit cheaper labour in developing economies.

The mirage of caring employers evaporated. The ugly face of extreme Capitalism was unmasked. The HR function was reduced to ensuring lay-offs were executed without the employer being sued in court.

Creativity & innovation become the new currency

Digital disruption profoundly changed the way business works. The slow, painful, organic growth of traditional brick-and-mortar business was displaced by overnight successes of unknown names like Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter -- led by dreamers and counter-intuitive thinkers. Most were brash enough to challenge received wisdom.

In Cyberspace trust is all

Instantaneous digital connectivity catapults smart ideas directly into consumer radar without agents. Concepts can be tested, revised and evolved at speed with minimal cost. Time and space are no barriers.

Above all, malpractices are swiftly outed and virally spread on social networks. There is no place for crooks. Trust is assumed. Brands risk a quick death if caught cheating. Shady practices don’t last.

Any business model can be challenged and disrupted -- including the new digital ones. Consumer loyalty has to be won anew everyday.

Innovative ideas, speed, flexibility, tight execution and trust is the new mantra of business in the 21st Century. The status-quo is the enemy. Organizations need to unblock talent and liberate creativity or atrophy and die. Good riddance.